Goals of work The purpose of the study was to describe the changes in employment and household income following a cancer diagnosis. Materials and Methods Participants were 68 recent cancer survivors (6-24 months since diagnosis) aged 18 years or older who were employed full- or part-time prior to receiving a cancer diagnosis. Data were both quantitative and qualitative. Participants completed a mailed questionnaire about various issues faced by cancer survivors, including 36 questions about work, finances, and income. In addition, space was provided for participants to write optional narrative details about work experiences. Main Results Before cancer, all 68 participants were employed, 45 full-time and 23 part-time. After completion of primary cancer treatment, 49 (72%) were employed (29 full-time and 20 part-time). A decrease in household income after cancer diagnosis was reported by 37% of participants. Of those who were the main income earners in their households prior to cancer, 26% were no longer the main earners after cancer. The qualitative data about work difficulties fell broadly into two areas: physical difficulties and attitudes of employers. Conclusions Though limited by a comparatively small sample size, this study is the first to focus on employment in the very early survivorship period, using both questionnaire and qualitative data. The findings show that many individuals continue to work during and after treatment, though reduction of work hours or quitting work is not uncommon. The complex factors associated with work decisions are not easily assessed with questionnaires, and in-depth qualitative studies of recent cancer survivors are warranted.
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